2008 was a monumental year for me.
I’d love to say that it was the best of times.
In reality, it was one of the most difficult years of my life.
In the spring of 2008, I graduated from NC State University with a Masters of Business Administration.
For three years, I had envisioned the day when I would be listening to Pomp and Circumstances as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma.
During the three years of study, I held in my mind the vision of standing in my cap and gown with one of my two baby girls in each of my arms.
One of my proudest moments came true as tears of accomplishment strolled down my cheeks as my wife took a picture of me holding Norah in one arm and Claire in the other arm minutes after I received my diploma.
I started graduate school while my wife was expecting our first child.
Before I started graduate school, I shared with people that the program would take me three years to complete.
The way I looked at it, three years were going to pass one way or the other.
I naively thought that graduate school was just going to take a little bit of extra time.
Two weeks into my first semester, Norah was born, and I became a father.
Norah had some slight issues shortly hours after her birth and was transfer to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for observation.
It was a scary time, and I struggled to keep a grip on my life.
Meanwhile, graduate school was turning out to be a lot more than I bargained for.
I felt like I was standing with my mouth wide open as a fire hydrant violently spewed water into my face.
Overwhelm is a word that doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt at that time.
I persisted through graduate school.
I didn’t get the best grades in graduate school.
However, I did well enough to pass each of my classes, and I graduated on time.
To this day, I have never been asked by anyone what my grades were in any of my classes except for one time I went to a job fair, and a recruiter from the bank asked me what my GPA was.
That bank is now defunct. Smile.
Like I really had anything to do with the collapse of the bank.
A few months after I took a picture of me in my cap and gown holding my two daughters, I read a book called Strengths Finder by Tim Rath.
The entire premise of the book is that everyone has strengths.
Once we discover our strengths, the best use of our time, resources, and energies is to focus on improving our strengths.
When we work on our strengths, we get better results than if we try to improve our weaknesses.
A good example of this is Michael Jordan.
In 2009, Michael Jordan was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Michael Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA and won six championships.
Michael Jordan took two years off from basketball to play baseball.
He was good enough to play minor baseball.
However, he never became good enough to play in the Major Leagues.
Once Michael Jordan finished playing with a bat and ball, he returned to the NBA and won three championships in a row.
Clearly, Michael Jordan’s strength is in basketball, not baseball.
When I finished reading Strengths Finder, I took the Strengths Finder assessment, which detailed that my top five strengths are:
- Relating with People
My number one strength is learning.
From time to time, I’ve felt that having learned as a top strength was a lame strength.
What good is it for me to be a good learner?
How in the world is learning valuable?
When I first started my business, I had plenty of time and very little money.
In those early days, I was mostly clueless about how to run an accounting business.
My ability to learn quickly enabled me to gain the skill I needed to build a business that has rewarded me handsomely.
As I look back at how I’ve helped my clients over the years, my top five strengths have enabled me to transform their business.
I’m able to quickly connect the dots with people and explain extremely complicated subjects simply with my clients.
My strength in relating with people has led to me quickly gaining trust with my clients as they share with me the most intimate details of the personal and business life.
There have been many times in my business career, where my strength in learning has toppled me and forced me to smash my face into the ground.
I love learning. Learning comes easy to me.
Ben Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
I’ve continually reinvested in my learning.
Since receiving my graduate degree, I’ve invested more than a quarter-million dollars in my knowledge.
That investment in knowledge has provided me with the best return on investment.
There are many areas of my business where my default action is to learn the skills necessary for the area so I would become adept at that area of my business.
This behavior has often led me to overworking myself, which has led to burnout, overwhelm and fatigue.
Too often, I look and immediately believe it is easy, and I’ll have it done in a New York Minute.
Many times, my business and life would have been better off by hiring someone to do the work instead of me doing the work.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done work that I could have hired someone for $20 an hour to do the work.
If I had chosen to delegate the work, I could have easily focused on work that would generate a lot more income for my business.
Too often, I’ve gotten caught up in learning everything first before I proceed with the action.
I’ve lost many opportunities because I was too busy learning and not doing.
In many instances, I’ve moved to learn more and more as a means of procrastination.
I wanted to figure it all out first before I did it.
My thinking was that learning first would lower my risk of failure.
For too much of my life, I’ve avoided failure because I have hated the pain and suffering that comes from failing.
In the last few months, I’ve had to reframe the way I view failure.
As I’ve reviewed my life, I’ve realized my greatest successes were born in my greatest failures.
With this knowledge, every time I get anxiety about putting myself out there in an action that could result in failure, I tell my self a different story.
My old thinking was, I can’t do this until I learn everything I can first.
Now I tell myself the following:
- The best way for me to learn is to act and fail. I love learning. I want to get the best education.
- I’ll never be able to figure it all out. By acting now, I learn what I need for the next step of success.
It’s taking a while for me to change the belief system where my default action is to learn before I act.
Learning is easy for me, and I, like most people, like to do the easy things.
By building up my muscle of taking action quicker, I’m making it easier to act quicker next time.
The best way to learn is to act.